TITLE: To Mend When You Know You're Breaking
SUMMARY: He walked across the floor and then up a few steps until he faced her. Still wondering how this conversation would evolve, he asked simply, "Why are you here?"
SPOILERS: Murder 2.0
He didn't think about it until later, but Abby had asked if she could stay with him in front of everyone. Sure, it was no secret that she'd stayed with him when her ex-boyfriend had turned stalker. However, she'd been the one in danger. She hadn't been the target this time around, and given that the killer was taunting him, she might have been better off staying with Ziva. Instead, Abby had asked him and none of the team had even raised an eyebrow at her request.
None of this, however, came close to explaining why – after they'd caught the murderous asshole – she had come home with him tonight. No one had left the Navy Yard for their homes for the duration of the case. Therefore, Abby wanting to stay with him should have been a moot point. Yet it had seemed the most natural thing in the world for him to stop by her lab at the end of the day and wait while she closed up shop for the night. They'd then exited the building together and headed for his car. The usually astute investigator hadn't even thought to question any of it until now.
Gibbs paused, his hand remaining on the sanding block, and looked across and up at his companion. Abby sat on the steps that led into his sanctuary, her head bent over a magazine. From somewhere, she'd pulled out a blanket and was huddled in it. If she felt cold, she hadn't said anything and he hadn't noticed. She looked completely at ease and didn't seem to mind that he'd barely said a word to her since coming down here. And now that he'd begun thinking about it, he found he couldn't stop. He looked at the block in his hand and then at the cedar planking he'd been working on. He was going to have to say something. Reluctantly, he put the block aside and hoped he wouldn't sound like an ass – or an NCIS agent interrogating a suspect.
Naturally, she'd noticed his movements and looked up from her reading. "Something wrong, Gibbs?"
He walked across the floor and then up a few steps until he faced her. Still wondering how this conversation would evolve, he asked simply, "Why are you here?"
Abby was confused. "What do you mean? Do you mean why am I sitting here on this step or -" Her face scrunched up as she pondered his question.
He sighed. This was going to be difficult. "No, Abs." He glanced down at the boat, wishing he was still working on it. "Why are you here, in my basement, with me?"
"I asked you, in my lab, remember? After that guy made me a target."
How could he forget? He tried not to smile as he remembered that she'd used superglue in an effort to trap her attacker, only to literally stop McGee in his tracks. "But that was last night, Abs, and none of us went home anyway. He's locked up and you're safe again. Case closed. So why are you here tonight?"
Abby bit her lip, revealing just how nervous she felt. "I don't know, Gibbs," she admitted. Now it was her turn to look away. "I guess, I mean, I just thought you wanted me here."
"Hell, Gibbs, I don't know." She turned back to him, eyes stormy. "Why don't you tell me? You're the one who came to my lab, waited for me to pack up, and then escorted me to your car. Not my car, Gibbs, YOURS. And then you drove us both here. So why don't you tell me, huh?"
He didn't know how to answer her. He couldn't even tell her what had been going through his mind when he'd gone to her lab. "I don't know."
She stared at him in disbelief. "You don't know? How can you not know? You're the all-knowing Gibbs. Even if your brain doesn't know something's hinky, your gut does." She swallowed. "I guess, I thought -. Oh, who gives a damn what I thought?" She tossed the blanket off her shoulders, dumping it unceremoniously on the paint-stained steps. "I'm going to let you get back to your boat, Gibbs. I'll see you tomorrow." She stood, turned and began the walk upstairs.
This time his gut did know there was something hinky, as she put it. He knew that if he let her go now, it was going to take more than a Caf-Pow and a bouquet of black roses to make it up to her. "You're not leaving," he ground out.
She didn't stop. "I'm not one of your suspects, Gibbs."
She paused at the top of the steps. "Give me one good reason."
"Because I say so."
She turned briefly and glared at him. "Not good enough."
Damn it! He was supposed to be the master interrogator here, not her. Even if he did agree that she wasn't one of his suspects. But he was the one who could either silence her or make her get to the point with a solitary look, so why did he feel like the bad guy here? When had the tables turned? "Abs," he pleaded, looking for a way out.
"Want to try again, Gibbs?"
He was surprised she hadn't already got to the door. That was usually his tactic: leave the interrogation room in the hope a suspect would get desperate and crack. But this was Abby; she always put her own spin on things. Perhaps she knew the mere thought of her leaving was enough. She always had an enormous amount of power over him. He knew it, she knew it. The whole damn Naval Yard knew it.
"I can't tell you why I brought you back here. Perhaps it was my gut telling me something. But face it, Abby, you were scared last night. And yeah, I was scared too. I get scared any time something happens to you. Maybe I needed to reassure myself that you really were okay. I can't tell you that I made a conscious decision to come down to your lab, but I can tell you I didn't even begin to question it until now. And you can't tell me you thought anything of it," he said defensively, "because you would have said something. You've never been backward about being forward," he added for good measure.
He focused on her back, observing the outline of her spine and her shoulder blades beneath the thin black top she wore. Please understand, he silently pleaded.
And maybe she did. "I was scared." Her voice was so unnaturally quiet that he almost missed her admission. "And not just for me. I didn't stop being scared just because the incident in my lab was a false alarm." She turned back, and he saw that her face was paler than usual. "I get scared whenever you're in danger. I can't imagine my life without you in it, Gibbs, and it scares me so much." She looked down at the red socks on her feet. "I don't like feeling that way, but I can't help it."
"Abby," he sighed, even as he felt they might actually be getting somewhere at last.
"No, Gibbs." She lifted her head and shook it vehemently. "Don't you dare say anything about you going to Mexico. That was different. It hurt when you left, but at least you were alive." She smiled sadly at him.
"Abby." He walked up the steps that divided them, and cupped her face in his hand.
"What if something happens, Gibbs? We've lost so many already. What if one day it's your death I have to help solve?"
"It didn't happen, Abs."
"But what if it does? And what if I'm too emotionally involved to do my job properly and the bastard gets off because I screw up?"
"I have complete faith in you, Abby, should that time ever come. But it didn't come today. I'm okay, Abs. We're both okay."
She placed her hand gently over his and nodded. "Should I still leave?" she asked with watery eyes.
He laughed. "No, Abs, you don't have to leave." She didn't ever have to leave, he wanted to add, but he didn't know if either of them was ready for that. Tonight had already been a night of revelation and confession.
"Good." She dropped her hand and pushed past him. "I want my blanket back." She grabbed the discarded blanket, draped it around her shoulders, and took her previous seat. "Honestly, Gibbs. This place is like an icebox. I don't know how you stand it."
"I guess I don't notice it when I'm working on the boat." But now that he'd stopped working he could feel the chill in the air. Then again, it was November. It was probably time to turn on the furnace at night. He sat down beside her. "You going to share MY blanket, Miss Sciuto?"
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, I guess," she said with mock reluctance. "Since it's you."
He reached out to take the proffered share of the blanket, but then reached out to pull Abby to his side. She rested her head against his shoulder and he leaned against her. They'd dodged a major bullet today. He could only hope they'd dodge any others that might come their way.